The Most Important Dates on the Tennis Calendar Before the 2015 French Open
No sooner does it feel like the new tennis season has only just got going again after a brilliant Australian Open, there is now almost a four-month gap until the next Slam at Roland Garros.
It is a frustrating time period for tennis fans each year, especially when the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are all completed within the next four-month period.
That said, there is plenty of tennis to play between now and the 24th of May—the date the French Open begins this year—and, as such, we look ahead to the most important dates on the calendar in that time.
Davis Cup, First Round (6 March)
The opening round took place in January last year, with the quarter-finals taking place in March.
For whatever reason, both have been pushed back by a few months this year, with the quarter-finals taking place a week after Wimbledon.
Regardless, there are some enticing opening draws once more.
In the pick of the round, United States will face Great Britain desperate for revenge after the latter reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 by shocking the Americans 3-1 last year.
It is difficult to see either nation making the semi-final, though, with last year’s finalists France likely awaiting in the quarter-final after being drawn against Germany, who the French actually overcame last year.
In terms of potential shocks, Japan will feel confident of defeating seeded Canada—with Kei Nishikori versus Milos Raonic an enticing battle should they face off against each other—for the second consecutive year.
2013 champions Czech Republic will also be wary of Australia’s growing threat, largely in the shape of Wimbledon and Australian Open quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios.
Notably missing, meanwhile, are Spain, whose shock defeat to Brazil in the play-off means they will miss out on a place in the Davis Cup proper for the first time in almost twenty years.
BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells (12 March)
Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in three thrilling sets in last year’s final in what turned out to be a precursor to the excellent Wimbledon final and the running rivalry between the pair throughout 2014 as they tussled to end the year as World No. 1.
The 20th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, meanwhile, stunned Agnieszka Radwanska in the women’s final.
Like the Miami Open a week later—which Djokovic also won last year—Indian Wells is always a prestigious tournament to win.
They are two of the four Premier Mandatory tournaments on the WTA Tour, while both carry 1,000 ranking points for the ATP winner, bringing the first, shorter-lived hard-court season of the year all but to a close in style.
Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (12 April)
An ATP-only tournament, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters is the first major clay-court tournament of the year at surely the most picturesque location on the calendar.
Rafael Nadal dominated from 2005 to 2012, triumphing every year, but Djokovic broke that stranglehold in 2013 after Juan Martin del Potro had inflicted Nadal's first-ever defeat in Monte Carlo in the semi-final.
Last year, this appeared to give others increased belief that they, too, could grab the 1,000 points up for grabs, as Stan Wawrinka showed his Australian Open title was far from a fluke by defeating compatriot Roger Federer to secure only the second clay-court title of his career.
It always proves to be an interesting tournament.
Madrid Open (3 May)
Like Indian Wells and Miami, the Madrid Open is a major tournament on both tours, as well as being the penultimate clay-court tournament in the build-up to the French Open.
Last year’s Madrid finals were both excellent, with Rafael Nadal severely tested in his home nation by Kei Nishikori before the Japanese’s unfortunate injury forced him to retire in the third set.
Indeed, Kevin Mitchell, as per The Guardian, described it as "a desperately cruel night for Kei Nishikori … [he] had only to serve out the second set to secure his 16th win in a row and his first title here when, turning violently to retrieve on the baseline, he broke into a limp."
On the WTA tour, Maria Sharapova ousted Simona Halep in three sets, a feat she repeated a few weeks later in an exhausting final in Paris to secure her second French Open title.
Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome (10 May)
Rome represents the last ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament on clay before the French Open, leaving its competitors increasingly eager to impress ahead of Paris.
Incredibly, the ATP title has been held by either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic since 2005.
Last year, the Serb defeated top-seed Nadal in the final to inflict the Spaniard's third clay-court defeat of the year—the first time this had occurred in 10 years.
It also had many backing Djokovic to do the same at the French Open to complete his career Slam; alas, that was not to be, with Nadal winning his ninth French Open in 10 years.
This tournament does not hold quite the same weight as the likes of Miami and Madrid on the WTA tour— being a Premier 5 tournament rather than Premier Mandatory—but that did not stop Serena Williams from battering Sara Errani in the final last year.
Not that it did the American much good in Paris, as she relinquished her title from 2013 in the second round—her earliest Slam defeat for two years.
Both outcomes show that, while these tournaments are undoubtedly significant, they can never be a full-blown barometer for the Slams.